Our Homeowners' Association Keeps Adding More Rules; Can It Legally Do This?

If it follows its own bylaws and rules, the board of an HOA can also pass new ones.

By , J.D. · UCLA School of Law

When you moved into your new condo or home in a developed community, you hopefully read the rules and regulations of your Homeowners' Association (HOA). But perhaps they didn't cover everything you're interested in. For instance, perhaps they said nothing about owning chickens, but you're now hoping to buy some nice laying hens for the backyard, and have found out that a new rule prohibiting owners from keeping chickens. Is it fair for you to have to follow a rule that arose after your arrival? Under what conditions can the association pass new rules in the first place? We'll try to answer those questions here.

HOA Boards Are Legally Allowed to Pass New Rules, If They Follow Proper Procedures

Unfortunately for your hoped-for chickens, the board of directors of a homeowner's association typically has the power to pass new rules and regulations governing the community.

The specific rules and regulations governing your community, and the procedures for changing them, can be found in your HOA's governing documents. These include the articles of incorporation creating the homeowners' association, the bylaws, the declaration (sometimes called the CC&R's, or "Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions"), and the rules and regulations.

The governing documents normally give the board the power to create new rules, and describe the procedures the board must follow to adopt them. For example, in some HOAs the board must give notice to the owners and/or allow the owners to vote on a new rule before implementing it.

Most HOA boards have wide discretion to make new rules, including rules limiting pets or other animals, so long as the board follows the prescribed procedures and the rules do not violate any federal or state law. For example, a new rule cannot violate the Federal Fair Housing Act, which protects people from housing discrimination based on such things as race, national origin, or handicap.

Check for Exceptions Within the New Rules

Sometimes a new rule will include an exception, to "grandfather" in something that was previously allowed. So, for example, the new rule against chickens might allow owners who already have chickens to keep them. But if you didn't own hens at the time the rule was adopted, you'll probably need to get your fresh eggs somewhere else!

For more information, see these articles on the Living Under a Homeowners' Association.

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